I Just Want to Help

   Written by on September 7, 2017 at 10:56 am
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Do you have a friend who recently suffered a loss?  Would you like to help but don’t know how?  Do you find yourself  in the uncomfortable position of wanting to help a friend but frozen by the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing?  Let’s look at things NOT to do when your goal is to help your friend through the healing process.

The first mistake is not talking about it.  With every visit, do you avoid the topic?  Are you waiting for your friend to start talking about it?  Maybe he or she is just as afraid as you are of doing or saying the wrong thing.  The next time you visit, invite your friend to talk about what happened.  Acknowledge their struggles.  Try saying, “I know things are hard for you right now.  Help me understand what’s happening with you right now.”  Your friend may just be waiting for you to say it is ok to talk about it.

The Bible tells us that the poor in spirit are blessed and those who mourn are comforted.  Let me put this in my words: we need to admit at times we are helpless and need help from others.  We need to admit that grief requires us dealing with our emotions.  In our culture, we tend to “stuff” our feelings and not deal with them.  How can you help your friend?  Give your friend permission to acknowledge his or her feelings.

The next mistake is to let your friend deny his or her grief.  Have you heard, “My loved one was a Christian and won’t want me to grieve.”  “My loved one was sick and I knew he/she was going to die so I don’t have to grieve.”  Accept your friend by confirming that he or she has started the grieving process while helping them see they are still grieving.  Your friend is experiencing the finality of death and a wide range of emotions.  She may feel guilty for not doing enough.  He may feel guilty that he feels a sense of relief because he no longer is watching a loved one’s pain.  She may feel guilty about the fear of facing the unknown.  Are there people or places that are hard for your friend to revisit?  Are there people or events that make him or her angry?  Are there tasks he or she is avoiding?  If the answer is yes, your friend still has emotions that need to be processed.

Yes, we live in the age of immediacy.  Everything should have happened already.  A mistake is to urge your friend to just get back to normal.  If your friend is back to normal activities then everything is okay.  Right?  Wrong!  Historically, grieving was to be a year.  You may be surprised that modern studies support that a year is needed for person to complete the process of reshaping their lives after a significant loss.  With a significant loss, many things in a person’s life change.  Calling a loved one every day at noon can’t happen anymore.  Friday night with the family is not going to be the same.  Finances will be different.  Encourage your friend to get involved in new experiences.  Give you friend support in finding new activities and help him or her recognize that life can be good again, even though it will be different.

The last mistake is letting your friend get stuck in grief.  This is the opposite of expecting everything to be back to normal immediately.  For example, perhaps your friend has always been a movie buff.  Now, because going to the movies was their favorite thing to do, he won’t go to the movies, watch TV movies or even watch a DVD with anyone.  Rather than accept this denial in his life, talk to him about it.  Help him make small steps to deal with the emotions and reconnect.

Keep in mind everyone handles grief differently but handle it they must.  You can help your friend in many ways including helping them accept support from a trained grief counselor.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or dgowin@discoverycounseling.org.

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